2 weeks ago the London singer-songwriter group, July Child kindly invited Aux London down to the latest Shut the Front Door event in Brixton where they were performing the only live set of the evening. This was a pretty cool feat as they were in the midst of renowed nu-disco and deep house DJs from across the globe. Subconsciously there was the added pressure of being the only live performers. We had pretty high expectations hearing their heavily melodic and emotionally powerful tracks on Soundcloud and July Child certainly did not disappoint. The rammed crowd at the Brixton Jamm really vibed off their tropical and feel-good sound, certainly earning them new fans by the end of the evening.
The July Child repertoire is extremely diverse. While consistently releasing a number of distinctive and captive originals on renewed labels such as Armada and Ultra, they have covered everything from the 90′s Sonique hit ‘So Good’, right up to current day artists such as Kyla La Grange. July Child’s sound is certainly unique also. Not only does it maintain the raw, live elements which you would expect to hear from two singer-songwriters but also comprises of the electronic and house elements: smooth synths, Kygo-esque plucked rifts and pitched down vocals. This diverse compliment of both live and electronic elements enables their sound to ride at the forefront of the developing wave of the nu-disco and tropical house scene. Still maintaining complete authenticity as it is played live by talented live musicians. These guys are definitely onto big things.
You are called July Child because your were both born on the same day in July but apart from similar birthdays, how similar are you both as musicians and as people? Do you have similar likes and dislikes?
Kiks: Not very similar as people haha, Well, we do have pretty similar…
Amber: Musical tastes!
Kiks: I suppose when you spend a lot of time with someone like I have with Amber, you take the things that are similar between you for granted a little bit but as far as people and our likes and dislikes go, I’d say amber is the complete opposite of a person to me. However, we are both into making music and following it as our true passion so we are pretty similar in that respect.
Twins who are born on the same day, are said to have telepathic skills, have you guys ever experienced anything like this?
Kiks: Amber would hate her life if she could read my mind.
Amber: Haha, in saying that, there has been times where I shoot Kiks an idea in the studio or rehearsal room and he knows exactly what I am thinking and we are on exactly the same wavelength so maybe…
Kiks: Yeah, well we experienced something similar, I guess, when we first started working together. In the beginning of us working together we started working with a lot of other musicians. The first time Amber and I were properly working together on one of these projects, the flow of ideas and our way of working together just clicked. We couldn’t really explain what was going on but in those first few months of working together things just started moving fast: every studio session that we did, every song that we wrote – we were just completely on the same wave length. It was a very cool time period.
Is this the period of time Kiks where you were featuring Amber as vocalist on your tracks?
Kiks: Yeah, so I was recording as Kiks featuring Amber Clara and this was more a case that I was at University at the time. I’d come home, get an idea for a track, call Amber up and get her in the studio for 1 hour. I didn’t really know how the music industry worked back then so I was just making tracks for Youtube.
Amber: It was making a song for making a song really, just to get stuff out there so people could hear it.
Kiks: The stuff we were making got a load of plays in Eastern Europe though, they were absolutely loving it.
Kiks: Starting July Child was a whole different process though, we literally spent 6-7 Months developing our sound and the image that we wanted to share before we even put any songs out there. It was a case of understanding what we wanted from our music.
You were creating the July Child vision almost?
Kiks: Yeah exactly, I think that’s essential for any artist and it’s always the response I give to artists who ask for me for advice on how they can develop their band to have more success. I tell them how Amber and I spent a year developing the sound and brand of July Child and in some respect, in uncertainty, not really knowing how people would respond to our stuff but we gave ourselves that essential time to create a focused vision to follow.
When you look at artists who have been successful, just look at my t-shirt, artists like Jungle, they realise how important this developmental stage is. So important that they spend time crafting their brand, you can’t rush into doing something like that. Artists today always seem to be in a massive rush, the moment they make a demo, they want everyone to hear it and just to get it out there immediately. I think it’s important to take that time in solitude to really develop your concept and vision before you share it with everyone else.
Amber: Exactly, we really spent a while in this process, I think the reason we feel we have such a clear message with the music we share today is because we spent this essential time building and creating these foundations.
Amber, lead-vocalist and one half of July Child performing at Shut the Front Door
Kiks, lead guitarist, songwriter and producer, other half of July Child
How did your musical journeys begin? When did you realise that creating and sharing music with others was your calling?
Amber: Well.. I couldn’t sing when I was younger. My parents actually told me I was tone deaf. Even to the point that when I had the headphones on in the car and was singing, I was just told to shut up. A couple of years later, I went to a drama school and I remember the day that one teacher went up to my parents and said, ‘do you realise your daughter can sing?’ This gave me a lot of confidence and from this point on I started doing singing, dancing and drama lessons and classes. Of course, I also did a bit of singing through music GCSE and stuff. I then started the process of writing my own lyrics and melodies. I actually met Kiks through one of those geeky, after-school clubs.
Kiks: Yeah it was like a really lame…’after school rock n’ roll club’ (puts his head in his hands)
J: Oh ok, so you guys were into different music back then?
Kiks: Yeah, I was a rocker back then. I hope that people can hear the wide spectrum of our musical tastes in July Child’s music today. I mean Amber has always been into current music and I have always been listening to records they listened to 40 years ago. So I’d be jamming to a beach boys song and Amber would bring me a Jessie Ware track that she was really into. We’ve got to a point now where we can integrate both of these elements to produce our own style.
Kiks I have read that you love Fleetwood Mac, I am huge fan too, how have they inspired you?
Kiks: Yes I love them, how on earth did you know that?
P: I have done my research!
Kiks: Haha, well you are correct! I think they are incredible songwriters, I mean every song on the Rumours album is a classic so it’s difficult not to be inspired by those guys.
J: I have no idea what you guys are talking about there, I am just into current music like Amber.
Amber: I think we should have two separate interviews and just let this bromance over Fleetwood Mac continue…
Kiks: How was your interview with Aux London Kiks? Yeah well.. they split up the band, haha!
Where did you learn your skills from? Are you both self-taught musicians/producers or did you follow the traditional path of learning musical theory?
Kiks: Not really classically trained. I picked a guitar when I was 11 because everyone plays guitar when they are 11. Everyone I was playing with at the time just eventually ended up stopping playing whereas I just kept at it. Later on, I realised that what I really wanted to do was to write my own songs. So I wrote like 20-30 songs, all with the classic emo themes like ‘love bleeding through my veins’, ‘take my love or go to hell’…
So yeah… I got that s*** out of my system.
Now you are into tropical?!
Kiks: Haha yes! Now I am clearly feeling much more positive… not hating the world so much. Making the light, happy and feel-good music with July Child…maybe that dark, emo side will make a comeback in the future.
You both had your first original release Liquid form just over year ago, how do you guys feel that your sound has developed and continues to develop since this first release? What made you want to start producing tropical/chilled house?
Kiks: The core principles of lyric writing and on the musical side, chord progressions, etc have pretty much stayed the same. So in some respect, if you compare our latest release with our first ‘Liquid Form’, you wouldn’t necessarily say they are completely different artists as the sound still has those consistent musical elements. However, today, we do have a better understanding about the scene and genre which our music fits into.
At the beginning when we first started producing our covers and originals we didn’t really know about the tropical house scene. It was only really when we covered Le Youth’s Cool, people would tell us that they loved our dance track. We were surprised, asking ourselves, it’s a dance track?! We just thought it was a laid-back cover with electronic elements.
Amber: Exactly, ‘Electric Chair’ is a perfect example of this. It’s a very chilled, acoustic guitar driven track including some electronic elements but now these sort of tracks could be considered to be house tracks or even dance music.
Kiks: Yeah, it was at this point we started listening to similar tracks to ours in the tropical house and chilled dance genre to see what our music was falling in line with. Only then, did we really get an understanding and awareness of the tropical house scene.
So making tropical house was almost a secondary occurrence, that almost happened by accident?
Kiks: Yeah absolutely, I think artists who chose a popular genre in which they want to produce in, might be setting themselves up to fail in some regards. For example, if they just decide, ‘Oh yeah, what’s popular? Deep house, dubstep, right I am going to produce in that’, you are immediately eliminating the natural process which is vital for making genuine production. Instead of creating music with feeling, you are just following trends, rather than creating new ones.
Kiks, I know you are heavily involved in the production side, currently there is a trend where music is becoming more synthetic and artificial, I know you guys incorporate a lot of live instruments into your music both in production and playing it live, is it difficult to balance both these elements? Is it important for you guys to make sure that you include both the real, live instruments but also get your music ready for the dance floor?
Kiks: I’d say we are all about the live elements. Previous to having our drummer Charlie and Piano player Olivia on board, Amber and I would play our live gigs to backing tracks and personally it just felt awful. People would tell us, ‘it was a great performance’ but I am someone who has spent my whole life going to amazing live gigs.
Like Fleetwood Mac?
Yeah, exactly, the Stones and the Chilli Peppers too. Playing our music essentially in a karaoke format just felt really inadequate.
Amber: Yeah, all our tracks just felt as if they were missing something when we played just to a backing track so it’s great that we now have Olivia and Charlie on board to take our live performances to the next level.
Kiks: Our sound has really developed though with the other band members, you guys will hear tracks tonight and how their arrangements have changed a little bit, the melodies too. Personally, I respect an artist more if they have the balls to change the music up for a live performance. That’s what you want when you come to a live gig, to see and hear something special. A performance which stands out from the produced track. I have been so disappointed the times where I have paid 30-40 quid just to see one of my favourite artists press play and you hear the backing track.
You guys really branch out when covering tracks and remixing also, I know you have done everything from the 2000’s with Kevin Lyttle, Blood Orange, Kyla La Grange and most recently the 90’s Sonique hit ‘so good’, how you decide upon which tracks you want to cover?
Amber: Well with ‘Turn Me On‘ we were driving home from rehearsals and by coincidence it just came on the radio and as a joke we suggested to each other that we could cover it.
Kiks: Yeah, at the beginning it was all a bit of joke. We just said to each other, ‘imagine if someone actually covered this?’
Amber: I got a message from Kiks about two days later and he had sent me a basic outline of a track and I was trying to work out what it was. When I realised it was the same Kevin Lyttle track I was shocked. It sounded really cool. I then started to believe we could actually cover this track.
Kiks: Yeah it turned out pretty cool. I don’t really see any of our covers as traditional covers in that sense. They are always brand new arrangements with our original take on them.
J: So where do you start in the production of a cover, is it the same method every time?
Kiks: No not the same every time, that’s a really good question. Well if we take our Le Youth cover for example, this just happened because I had had that song in my head for absolutely forever.
Amber: Yeah, we were both obsessed with that song for absolutely ages.
Kiks: We just thought wouldn’t it be cool if someone did a really laid-back cover of this? If you hear the first half of that track, it has no drums and I was thinking it would be really cool to keep that theme running throughout the rest of the track. You get so many ideas when you are doing a cover or even a remix, sometimes it’s hard not to get carried away. With this cover, I was just thinking what if I have a trumpet solo in it? What if I have a huge bass line? Most of the time it just all happens completely naturally. There has been other times when I am producing a track and I have tried to force something and it never works out as well as when it flows naturally.
Kiks I read that you said, you wanted to set up a independent label because the climate of the music industry, especially in the UK isn’t the best. Labels aren’t willing to invest like they were in the past, so you were left with a moral dilemma. In that you want to retain artistic control over your releases but gain that exposure and investment a label can offer. Do you guys feel that this is still the case in the UK? Do you feel that the industry is helping enough young musicians? How much artistic control do you guys still have over your music?
Kiks: To a certain extent I think labels in the the UK are still stuck in that old fashioned way of thinking. Meaning, they would rather sign someone who’s making massive waves and give them a five year deal. Ask the artist for three albums, 12 singles, and however many videos. On the other hand there exists the very rare occasion where a label takes one artist and says we are going to develop their music, image and sound for a year. With the artist in which the label chooses to develop, it’s literally a case of, you do what they say now, you look like this, you sound like this…
Amber: You will get remixed by a producer signed to the same label.
Kiks: I totally understand why this methodology works but there are a few things to me that seem really unappealing. Personally as someone who’s made music since forever, I can’t imagine if a label was turn round to us and say, “you can’t cover ‘Turn Me On’ and Kevin Lyttle, just take this direction!”.
I think labels are entitled to their own opinion. In the end, I don’t think anyone knows what the correct way to go about things is. Even a label that is really the top of its game. I don’t think there’s one way to go about it for an Artist or a label. This is why I am massive fan of labels like Armada or Ultra where they take you on for one track, just sign you for that one track, leaving you the complete artistic control.
So at the moment you both are still keeping artistic control over everything?
Kiks: Yeah absolutely, we are sitting on so many originals. Maybe even up to 30 original tracks, tracks which would do July Child justice online. We are looking for the right label for each track which seems for us the best way of working.
This actually relates to the next question I read that you guys were waiting to find the right producer to really help you bring out your sound to release a July Child album? Is this still the case? Any hints on when we can hear this album?
Kiks: I think our thoughts on this have changed a little bit. What about you Amber?
Amber: I agree, I think today we are a lot more comfortable in the direction of our sound and we are not challenging or questioning who we are as artists anymore.
Kiks: I think, beforehand when we said we were looking for a producer, we thought we were lacking direction. This was case until recently we stopped and reflected upon ourselves and we were really shocked at how far we have come. It’s quite easy to get caught up in stressing about things and lose sight of your direction or feel as if things are less clear.
I had a massive epiphany right at the start of this year where I checked our soundcloud and saw we had 750k plays. I thought to myself, I haven’t done anything to make that happen, I haven’t sent a single email, I haven’t spent even the tiniest bit of cash of marketing, I haven’t emailed a label or a PR firm or anything. We have been blessed in that all of things have just happened by themselves because of the music. So I was like why I am trying to impress someone else when there are tthese people who are loving our music? This was a major insight for me personally.
Bit of nostalgia now, what was the first album or single you guys can remember buying? Do you still have it today?
Kiks: This is going to be embarrassing…
Amber: I have no idea, it’s I think it was something like Gina G, you know that song where it’s like… how does it even go? Well I used to listen to Travis a lot when I was little so probably one of their albums or something. They were cool.
You guys seem to touch on every genre in some aspect of your music which is incredible to keep your music so diverse at the same time as having a clear and consistent sound that people can relate to. So the big question is who would you dream past or present collaboration be with?
Amber: hahaha I know immediately who Kiks is going to say…are you not going to say it? Are we going to get you started on this?
Kiks: It’s way too easy…I can’t say it without going into the whole half an hour argument about why he’s the best musician that has ever been… of course it couldn’t be anyone else but Kanye West.
Kiks: I just think he is the only person who’s successful at music nowadays, who is genuinely talented.
Amber: hahaha I have to listen to all of this in the car today.
Kiks: I don’t want to get into it, I might get too emotional.
Amber: (Laughing histerically)
Kiks: Another collaboration though… let me think.
Amber : I am quite generic.
Kiks: I would love to work with someone more urban like Kendrick Lamar would be really cool.
Amber: You always have very interesting answers Kiks.
Kiks: Who were you going to say Amber?
Amber: Backstreet boys haha.
P: A lot of album and single sales…go for it
Amber: No no, erm…I don’t know really, I am not going to say Jesse Ware because we are too similar really but I would love to sing with her.
Kiks: I think Dev Hynes from Blood Orange would be a dream for me also.
Amber: Yes, love him.
Amber I know it’s really important when adding vocals to a track and developing a great hook and melody to feel the music and to be vibing off it, is that something that comes naturally or do you have to get yourself in the zone, is it sometimes frustrating? How does it normally go down in the studio?
Amber: No it’s not normally super frustrating really. Usually when we do vocal ad libs over a track, it is normally at the end of session where Kiks just says to me, ‘get back in the booth and just sing’. I’ll go in there and just mess about with different melodies, see if I can sing something that I really like.
Kiks: I just leave the room at this point and let Amber get on with it.
Amber: It’s the same sort of thing when we are writing vocal melodies, lately, it just comes naturally, it’s not really forced. There have been a few times with certain songs where it has taken a bit of time to get it perfect and we have had to really work at it but the majority of times, it just happens naturally.
Kiks: I’ve found with the tracks that we have spend more time thinking about, a lot of s*** just doesn’t happen. Recently we have tried to do a lot of collaborations where a producer or artist has sent us a track and there exists, well… I wouldn’t call it pressure but there exists a sort of restraining structure to the song. For example, here’s what the chords are, the melody rises and falls like this. We haven’t really responded well to these tracks. A lot of our best original material just comes straight from the rehearsal studio where I am just playing guitar and Amber is just humming. I just ask her hum that melody again, we put some lyrics to it and violà the song is made.
July Child meets Aux London
The tropical sound really seems to be growing at the moment, where do you see this scene going? Do you think it will be a long-term development because a lot of people are saying it’s going to die out in a couple of years? Where do you see the development of house music in general going?
Amber: I guess the tropical scene has been around for a while.
Kiks: I don’t think the tropical sound is necessarily that new, a lot of what makes it work is the nu-disco aspect which has been around for the last years really, a lot of artists that STFD has been supporting. I think producers such as Kygo and Thomas Jack have made it become more chart worthy.
Amber: Yeah, a little more mainstream.
Kiks: I think a lot of people have issues with people like Kygo because the music becomes ‘too commercial’. It all kicked off when Kygo signed to Sony and people’s opinion was really divided on this. I am just like hold on, here’s a kid who is living at home in his bedroom, who was like I want to make music but not only that I want to make something that no one has ever made before. I want to make music at 100bpm which no one does. While critics were saying that no one will dance to that. I think he fucking deserves everything. That’s a ballsy move, I respect Kygo for that.
I just think with tropical house it’s not as easy as dubstep or deep house to make a really good tropical house track because the thing you do need is musical knowledge. You need to know how to play a really good melody.
With dubstep and deep house, a lot of people who aren’t very a good at it would just bash together some beats, or even a single note bass line and it just sounds terrible. I really respect all the musicality that goes hand in hand with tropical house. Out of all the genres, tropical house is the one genre where I can find someone on SC with 100 followers and listen to their track and be like this is fucking amazing whereas I am sure if you went searching through dubstep or deep house, you find some absolute shit coming through, just terrible, banging synths together.
What would your advice be to upcoming artists, producer and musicians who are perhaps too starting a collective project like July Child?
Kiks: That’s a really good question, I have never really thought about answering that.
Amber: I would advise a collective project just to take their time. Take substantial time like we did in the studios and rehearsal rooms, even when we used to produce in Kiks’ bedroom just to really perfect our sound and find our direction.
Kiks: I think the first stage is just having that faith in yourself and that drive, everything else is secondary.
Amber: Yeah, you have to believe in your sound.
Kiks: Just put the time in, I mean Robert Greene talks about mastering your art in 10, 000 hours,
P: I love that you have just mentioned Robert Greene, YES!
Kiks: Don’t get jealous guys just a bromance going on here but yes it’s a lot of hard and consistent work.
Amber: I’d be doing a 9-5 job and then from 6-11, I’d be straight in the studio so it’s making sure everyday you are working on your art.
Does it shock you when you take time to reflect on the success of your tracks on soundcloud?
Kiks: Definitely, I always think what would have happened if we didn’t take off as well as we did with Le Youth. At first we weren’t quite sure what to make of the track we showed it to our friends and family and they really liked it so that gave us the confidence to put it online. Within a day or two it had reached hundreds of thousands of people.
Amber: I just remember sitting in the studio and being like, ‘wow Kiyon, I am really like this track’. We made this track essentially for ourselves as a joke in a funny way. Same as the Kevin Lyttle Cover.
Kiks: Basically what Amber is saying is that our whole band has been big joke haha!
It’s been a good joke though?
Kiks: Yeah people get it!
What July Child track are you most proud of?
Kiks: That’s s really hard one man
Amber: Personally, I love ‘Leave Me Out’.
Kiks: Same here.
Amber: It’s just one of my favourite songs to sing,
Kiks It was always a B side, we never really thought much of it. It was one of those where I put online and I went on holiday for a month, I came back it and it had 100, 000 hits and it just felt like the whole world had responded to this track.
Amber: Yeah, it was trending on soundcloud. A really special moment.
What can we expect from you music wise in 2015?
Kiks: Lots of shows abroad, we have an upcoming gig in Muscat which is going to be cool. We don’t really act in that way in which we plan months ahead, otherwise, we’d be screwed. We just take it day by day, we are just like, ‘what are we doing Monday morning?’ Just get back in the studio and make some more tracks. I think our sound is moving in quite a cool way in which we are just going to let it evolve, the more you control it, the less natural it becomes. For sure we will have new releases coming our fans way soon.
1. If you could only hear one thing from this point on would it be melody or lyrics?
Kiks: Definitely melody.
Amber: Agreed, melody.
2. If you guys could high five anyone past or present who has inspired you who would it be and why?
Kiks: Mr West of course.
Amber: Just going to go with my favourite person of all time… Jessie Ware.
3. Team Kanye or Team Beck?
Kiks: Team Kanye, have you heard Becks record?
No I haven’t actually but he does play 12 instruments, surely that’s got to be in his favour compared to Beyonce 12 co-writers….
Kiks: Of course, of course but having said that, I can’t name you a single melody from that record, I can’t name you a single lyric, I think he’s done better stuff. I respect Beck’s artistry but Kanye is a just a robot who is against injustice, he’s fighting for our future’s basically…
At this point amber steps in to stop Kiks ranting about Kanye again!
Amber: Don’t bring up Kanye anymore
Kiks: You should have warned them Amber, don’t mention the K word…
4. WYR have the details of your romantic life be made into a hit sit-com or have your personal finances announced on the radio everyday?
Kiks: Neither are that impressive so…I’m really not bothered.
Amber: Love life made into a sit-com, because I have a boy friend so it’s not really that interesting.
Kiks: So it’s boring, yep!
5. WYR always have to enter rooms backwards or always have to somersault out?
Kiks: Well, I can’t somersault so that’s that.
Amber: What is a somersault?
Kiks: (wispers) It’s a back flip/front flip thingy.
Amber: Ok, I’d somesault out.
Kiks: Imagine you are in a really important business meeting and you were like, ‘here is my final draft sir’ and then you are done, see you later mate, you somersault out, that would be unreal. Hahaha.
Amber: I would love that, to be remembered as ‘that girl’ who sommersalted out.
6. WYR you rather fight Mike Tyson or talk like him for the rest of your life?
Kiks: Oh tough, neither man. To be honest with you, it would be over faster just fighting him. He’d beat the shit outta me and it would be over. Done.
Amber: I’d attempt to fight him but I don’t know, I would just smile at him and hopefully he wouldn’t fight me…
7. Would you rather spend 12 hours on a flight between an arguing couple or be stung mid flight by the most itchiest mosquito sting on your face?
Kiks: Dude, what are you doing? That’s hard. Am I allowed to talk to the couple to get them to shut up?
No rules state, they are just going to argue for 12 hours.
Amber: I’d go with the couple because you could just put earphones in.
Kiks: Yeah you can’t really negotiate with that pain of the mosquito.
8. WYR wake up from sleep walking in the middle of the M25 during rush hour or on the edge of the Shard?
Kiks: Ooof, top of the shard I’d say.
Amber: Top the shard?!
Kiks: Yeah I am not a fan of getting run over.
Amber: I don’t like heights, not petrified of them but I don’t like heights.
That’s everything, we are done, thank you so much guys.
Kiks: that is the funniest interview we have ever done, great work guys.
Amber: Love it guys, let’s go perform Kiks!